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Threat Of Upcoming Blizzard Seen Through 6 Images

The blockbuster snowstorm headed for southern New England beginning on Friday is expected to unleash a potentially crippling amount of snow in some areas, perhaps more than 2 feet. Due to the combination of high winds and heavy snow, blizzard warnings have been issued from Maine to Long Island, including Boston, Hartford, Providence, and New York City. The worst of the weather is expected to come on Friday night into Saturday, when snow could fall at rates of 2-to-4 inches per hour in some areas, and winds could gust to 70 mph or higher across Cape Cod and the islands.

Storm impacts forecast from the NWS Boston office.
Click to enlarge the image. Credit: NOAA/NWS.

The winds will combine with high astronomical high tides to cause coastal flooding from New Jersey northeastward, with the greatest risk of flooding between Boston and Cape Cod as hurricane-force wind gusts build waves to heights of at least 20 feet, battering north-facing coastal locations. If the peak winds coincide with the Saturday morning high-tide cycle, which is the astronomical peak for the month, then moderate to major coastal flooding could result. A storm surge of 3-to-4 feet is forecast in eastern Massachusetts, and the National Weather Service (NWS) is warning that coastal areas whose defenses were weakened by Hurricane Sandy may experience more beach erosion and potential flooding, even though the storm surge will be far lower during this event.

According to the NWS (All-CAPS is in original text): “LARGE WAVES COMBINED WITH A 2-TO-3 FOOT STORM SURGE MAY CAUSE A NUMBER OF VULNERABLE SHORE ROADS TO BECOME IMPASSABLE FOR A WHILE . . . AND MAY CAUSE DAMAGE TO HOMES ALONG THE IMMEDIATE SHORELINE DURING THE SATURDAY MORNING HIGH TIDE.

"I'm really worried about the areas worst hit by Sandy," NWS meteorologist Gary Szatkowski told NJ.com. "Time is starting to work against us . . . We could see substantial beach erosion. I know people have been working hard, but there's less to erode. We could easily see waves and water coming into areas you typically wouldn't."

Coastal flood forecast for Saturday morning's high tide.
Click to enlarge the image. Credit: NOAA/NWS.

The storm is going to evolve out of the combination of two pieces of energy in the atmosphere, one diving southeast from the Midwest, and another moisture-laden storm moving northeast from the Gulf of Mexico. This series of images shows areas of atmospheric spin, or vorticity, and depict the "phasing" of the two storm systems to form one very powerful storm just off the New England coast.

Computer-model simulation showing two bundles of atmospheric energy (yellow hues), before combining to create one storm.
Click to enlarge the image. Credit: Weatherbell.com.

Computer-model simulation showing one major storm after the two pieces of energy combine, as of Saturday.
Click to enlarge the image. Credit: Weatherbell.com

The storm will get an added boost from unusually warm sea-surface temperatures lurking just off the East Coast, which may inject more moisture and energy into the developing low-pressure area. 

Sea-surface temperature departures from average along the East Coast.
Click to enlarge the image. Credit: Weatherbell.com.

Above-average sea-surface temperatures were also present when Hurricane Sandy struck in late October. According to climate scientists, the warm waters may reflect both natural climate variability and the effects of manmade global warming.

Stranded cars on Route 128 outside Boston after the 1978 blizzard. Unlike that storm, this one is not expected to stall out for days, but it may dump similar snowfall amounts.
Credit: The Boston Globe

If the storm buries Boston in snow, it would come roughly 35 years after an historic blizzard blasted the city in 1978. That storm, as the above image shows, stranded cars on Route 128 outside Boston and it brought the region to a standstill for days.

For current weather watches and warnings check the National Weather Service and local media. To follow the storm, these Twitter accounts may be helpful:

@afreedma
@ClimateCentral
@weatherchannel
@JimCantore
@NWSNewYorkNY
@NWSBoston
@Breakingstorm
@NotifyNYC
@Capitalweather
@MattNoyesNECN
@wxbrad
@WSJWeather
@SSterling
@TWCShawn
@GovChristie
@NYGovCuomo
@
MassGovernor

Related Content:
Life-Threatening Blizzard Poised to Strike New England
Historic, Crippling Blizzard May Strike New England
Ongoing Coverage of Historic Hurricane Sandy
U.S. Coastlines Will Bear the Brunt of Climate Change, Says New Report 
Sea Level Rising Faster Than Average in the U.S. Northeast

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